NEW YORK (Reuters) - The National Basketball Association will offer fans in China original programming and an easier way to buy league gear through e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, the league announced on Wednesday.
For the first time, NBA China will create content for Alibaba users. Game highlights, classic games and the new content - along with league merchandise - will be accessible to Alibaba’s nearly 700 million consumers across all its platforms through a dedicated “NBA section,” the NBA said.
The move is part of a continuing expansion by U.S. sports leagues in overseas markets.
The NBA in particular has seen success in China since it opened its first office outside of North America in 1992 in Hong Kong, with internet companies in the basketball-crazed nation competing for media content.
In 2015, the NBA struck a five-year deal making Tencent Holdings Ltd the only company in China to offer the NBA’s League Pass package, which allows subscribers to watch a full season’s worth of games live and on-demand.
In November, the NBA said the Beijing-based technology company ByteDance would also deliver some NBA content through several platforms including TikTok.
At Alibaba, a love of basketball reaches into the highest echelons. Co-founder and Executive Vice Chairman Joseph Tsai is also an owner of The Brooklyn Nets and the WNBA’s New York Liberty.
Alibaba’s Tmall website launched a flagship store in 2012 to sell licensed NBA merchandise.
“With this expanded partnership, we will fully leverage Alibaba’s ecosystem to create a unique digital experience and bring the NBA closer to fans and consumers in China,” said Toby Xu, Vice President of Alibaba Group, in a statement.
The new original programming will cover game predictions, fashion, sneakers, memorabilia and other popular basketball and cultural topics, the NBA said.
Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Susan Thomas